When a bland dish was served for dinner, my mother always told me “Don’t play with your food – just eat it!” If there had been flowers in it, I probably would’ve eaten a lot more.
The wonderful thing about French cuisine is that it makes ample use of flowers to enhance simple ingredients. I love using flowers in French desserts like jasmine scented creme brulee or a fruit salad flavored with rosewater.
French Cuisine and Flowers
Since the 18th century, the French have used jasmine, carnations, roses, orange blossoms, and violets in cooking. French cuisine called for flowers to enhance fresh fruit salads, pastries, jams, jellies, and sorbets. They were used not only for their delightful scent but also for their supposed medicinal properties.
Even today, it’s common to see raspberry and rose-flavored pastries or rose petal jams in up-scale pastry shops in France. And candy shops still sell candied violet leaves or violet-scented syrups.
But only certain varietals of fresh flowers are edible. So if you’re tempted to try using some in your recipes, first ask a pharmacist which ones can be used in food. An easy way around this is to use flower waters that are meant for cooking. I’ve included below an easy French fruit salad recipe scented with rose water.
Recipe: French Fruit Salad Recipe with Rose Water
• 1 small ripe pineapple (or unsweetened canned pineapple slices)
• 2 pears
• 4 passion fruits
• 20 cl/ 6 fl oz of sugar syrup
• 1 TB of rose water
• 2 pinches of vanilla powder (or 1/4 tsp of pure extract)
• 2 pinches of cinnamon
• Cut the passion fruits in half and scoop out the interior (seeds and juice) into a large bowl
• Add to the bowl the sugar syrup, rose water, cinnamon, and vanilla and stir
• Remove the outer husk of the pineapple; cut the pulp in 1/2 inch slices
• Peel the pears and cut in quarters one inch thick
• Add the sliced pineapple and pears to the bowl and mix delicately
• Leave covered in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving
The rose water in this fruit salad recipe adds an extra twist that will wow your family or guests. It’s easy to prepare, can be made in advance, and even packed for a picnic.
Floral waters are easier to use and last longer than trying to find the right varietal of fresh flowers for cooking. I always have two on hand because they’re the most versatile: orange blossom water (an ingredient on the “French Pantry Checklist“) and rose water (both are from Thiercelin).
I keep them refrigerated and use both in sweet and savoury dishes.
In addition to the fruit salad recipe above, try a dash of rose water with any red berries (raspberries, strawberries, etc.) or in your Earl Grey or herbal teas.
And now how about you? Do you use flowers or floral waters in cooking? Leave a comment below and let me know!